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Position wanted: big-league manager


© St. Petersburg Times,
published August 5, 2001

Tom Foley gave up his title as farm director because he wanted to spend more time on the diamond, working with and overseeing Rays minor-leaguers as the field coordinator.

Where he really wants to be is in the dugout.

Foley, 41, will manage in the Arizona Fall League hoping -- eventually -- to land a job managing in the big leagues.

"When you do this, obviously that's what you'd like to be," Foley said. "The opportunity is there -- it's a great opportunity -- and it's something I want to do in the future. We'll see where it goes."

Foley, who concluded a 13-year major-league career in 1995, started his post-playing career as a manager. After overseeing the Rays' first post-draft minicamp in June 1996, he took a squad of rookie-level players to Butte, Mont., and led the Copper Kings to a 37-35 record and a spot in the playoffs, earning Pioneer League manager of the year honors.

He spent the next four seasons as the Rays' director of minor-league operations and didn't appear interested when his name surfaced in other cities regarding front-office and coaching jobs.

But getting a chance to manage is different.

"It means a lot," Foley said. "It's something I wanted to do when I stopped playing, and something I always thought I would do."

The Rays will field an instructional league team in St. Petersburg during the same time as the Arizona league, but general manager Chuck LaMar gave Foley permission to take the job.

"Tom's an outstanding baseball man. He enjoys being in uniform and he enjoys managing," LaMar said. "I wouldn't be surprised if he managed in the major leagues someday, and if he does, these credentials will be important to him."

Foley insists he isn't looking past this fall. With Hal McRae signed to manage the Rays through the 2003 season, he probably doesn't have any reason to.

But much like the farm system produces future major-league players, it could be that a future major-league manager is being developed.

"I had a good experience in Butte, things just went another way. I have no regrets," Foley said. "This is something I want to do, and whatever happens beyond that, we'll see."

NICK OF TIME: The Rays think highly of Nick Bierbrodt, the 23-year-old left-hander acquired from Arizona. So does Diamondbacks star Randy Johnson, the three-time Cy Young winner who befriended Bierbrodt.

"I think he's a very promising pitcher," Johnson told the Arizona Star. "I think he can be a 15-, 18-game winner. Two to four years down the road, he can be an All-Star. He has the potential to be a 20-game winner.

"He has that much talent. He needs to be out there every fifth day to learn how to pitch. Maybe I'm wrong. But he's willing to work, and that means a lot, too. Watch. See how he does the rest of the year. Some people peak late, which I did. He's a little more advanced than I was. He's going to go off and flourish."

Johnson also noted the parallels between the two lanky left-handers.

"Montreal was trying to win a championship, so they traded me to Seattle," Johnson said. "We're trying to win a championship, so we traded Nick to Tampa Bay. I was shipped to a team where I could pitch every day, and Nick was shipped to a team where he could pitch every day. Who would have known how it turned out for me?"

THE REVIEWS ARE IN: The Rays take abuse in the national media, but there was considerable praise for their deal with the D'backs.

The analysis may have been the most lavish: "The real prize is Bierbrodt, the first draft choice in Diamondbacks history. He is a 23-year-old left-hander who throws 96 and had some success in a brief stint in the majors. Arizona should have gotten a better package for Bierbrodt and (outfielder Jason) Conti, a Steve Finley type who batted .331 at Triple-A Tucson."

HOO-RAYS: How happy were the Cubs to get Fred McGriff? "The players were so keyed up they sent Fred's wife two dozen roses with a card that read, "Thanks for letting us share your husband for a couple of months,' " Cubs manager Don Baylor said. ... There's a rumor that No. 1 draft pick Dewon Brazelton and other unsigned top picks Mark Prior and Mark Teixeira may sign with the same independent Northern League team.

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